The Net Gallery is lucky to have such a diverse and accomplished group of artists as its members. Despite the social distancing restrictions and emotional, physical and financial struggles that 2020 has brought, many of our members have still been very active and have had the opportunity to publicly exhibit their work online and in physical venues.
One of these members is South Manchester-based social realist painter Peter Davis, whose work has recently been included in the New Light Prize Exhibition alongside some of the UK’s best emerging and established painters.
A member of the Contemporary British Portrait Painters (CBPP), Davis has previously been featured on The Net Gallery through his participation in the Portraits for NHS Heroes virtual exhibition, which was installed and scanned at Fitzrovia Chapel, the former chapel of London’s Middlesex Hospital. He also had work in the CBPP “Perceptions” exhibition scanned in The Space at Cass Art.
Unlike his NHS Hero portrait of staff nurse Steph Hedge, the majority of Davis’ figurative compositions focus on someone absorbed in their personal technology, with their bodies physically present but their minds elsewhere. In this way, he creates an intentional dichotomy between his traditional painting process and his technology-centric subjects.
As Davis explains:
“The biennial New Light Prize Exhibition is one of the most important showcases for promoting Northern artists and I am proud to have been selected to participate this year. My painting, currently on display in the New Light Prize Exhibition at Scarborough Art Gallery, is called “Late night screening”. It depicts a very familiar scene in our world today, a young person, head downwards, watching content on their phone.”
Late Night Screening is part of an ongoing series in which Davis examines our current relationship with technology. He believes that our lives are now dominated by technology, and started this body of work to reflect our increasingly addictive relationship to our devices.
“I believe personal technology” Davis says, “is blurring our physical and digital worlds and making us fundamentally rethink what it means to be human. The devices that literally and figuratively light up our lives are irresistible. Technology addiction has gripped us all and we are fast recreating our entire world within digital ecosystems.”
Despite his somewhat pessimistic view of his subject matter, Davis works to make his paintings feel technically beautiful. His paintings are bright and intricately detailed, with the artist taking weeks to capture moments that could last mere seconds. The figures are largely painted in front of flat, brightly-coloured backgrounds, which create a strong impact and serve to isolate the subject from their surroundings.
“I am a great believer” Davis adds, “that the role of an artist is to hold a mirror up to society and so I started this body of work in 2015 to reflect our increasingly addictive relationship with the tech that now dominates our lives. Seeing people connected to their devices 24/7 is so common that we don’t give it a second thought anymore. As the American writer, Henry Miller, puts it ‘What the painter sees he is duty-bound to share. Usually, he makes us see and feel what ordinarily we ignore or are immune to.’”
While Davis may have certain reservations about our relationships with technology, there are some forms of digitisation with which he is happy to engage:
“I am thrilled to be a member of The Net Gallery and have work in two exhibitions that have been scanned by The Net Gallery… For me The Net Gallery is another great example that, in our digital epoch, embracing technology can enrich our lives.”
Article by Toby Buckley for The Net Gallery.
Peter Davis is a member of the Contemporary British Portrait Painters (CBPP) and the Manchester Academy of Fine Arts (MAFA).
Find out more about the New Light Prize Exhibition, here.